Before we start, I should say that I am very well aware of the timing of this race and the fact that it falls in between the Clipper and the Musidora at York probably means that it won’t get too much attention. However, whilst you look for Oaks clues in the Musidora, it is worth keeping an eye on the opening race at Vichy. The race is due to start at 3:25 (UK Time) and although it is open to all 2-year-olds, we have ended up with a field of 7 fillies going to post. That’s not surprising given the early position in the calendar and the fact that there will be several sets of connections who are hoping to pinch a bit of Black Type for the CV in a less competitive race. However, the presence of Komat, a recent winner on debut at Redcar for Dominic Ffrench Davis, has made this race a little more interesting than it may have appeared to be at first.
The British Raider
There is a €30,000 prize to the winner of this race, which may well help to explain the decision to travel, but this looks to be more than just a speculative trip to try and win a decent pot. Dominic Ffrench Davis and Amo Racing have made a good start to the 2023 season in the UK and with options limited for 2-year-old winners at home, this looks to be a good opportunity to test the waters before a possible run at Royal Ascot. I started my analysis of this race by looking at Komat and then trying to assess the 6 French-trained runners to see if I could find a horse to beat her. Komat made a winning debut at Redcar on 17th April. Despite being caught in a pocket behind the leader and being green at times, she stuck to her task and once getting space in the final 2-furlongs, she picked up readily to win going away at the line. The second won on her next start at Beverley and the pair pulled nicely clear of the rest in the closing stages. Timeform gave her a rating of 81+ for that victory and that looks a fair reflection of the ability that she showed on debut. The question is, can any of the French runners better that and will Komat improve? Well, the latter part should be easy to answer. Yes. Given how green she was on debut, there is surely more to come as she gains experience and although her dam was a maiden, she comes from a good family who develop well. But what about the other part to my question?
Chataigne and Daiquiberry are closely matched after they finished 1,2 in a Bordeaux maiden 3-weeks ago. The pair were a few lengths clear of the rest at the line and the horses in behind have hit the frame on their next starts to give some substance to the race. Chataigne has been supplemented for the race and of the 2, she is the horse I prefer. Daiquiberry appeared awkward at Bordeaux, looking unbalanced and having a high head carriage under pressure in the closing stages. She was readily picked off by Chataigne in the closing stages and I see no reason why that form should be reversed here, but if we say Komat ran to 81 at Redcar, then perhaps Chataigne got to 75 at Bordeaux on the same scale, although timeform do have her slightly higher at 80. There wasn’t another sprint on that card to compare the race to, but the time of 1:03.58 would be par for the course and there is no doubt that she may need to improve to trouble the British horse.
The Least Likely
I probably shouldn’t have a such a negative title for the next 2 runners but having studied the form of Arizona and Eclaire La Vie, it is hard to make a case for them. Arizona finished fourth in a maiden at Marseille-Borely last time and on a direct form line through the third placed Goway, who filled the same position behind Chataigne at Bordeaux, she has a lot to find. Although the race was strongly run, she was readily outpaced in the home straight and it is not hard to envisage the same scenario occurring here. Eclaire La Vie has won a race, landing a claimer at La Teste on her second start a few weeks ago after failing to land a blow on debut. We can upgrade that win, as she stayed on strongly down the centre of the track, away from the stands side rail which is usually the place to be at La Teste. However, this is a very significant step up in grade and she probably has 20lbs to find in order to feature here.
I didn’t mean to split the field into 3 groups, but the analysis has just led me to that conclusion. If we are to find a horse to beat Komat, then it surely comes from the last 2 runners, who both have form at the Metropolitan tracks in the North. I’ll start with Balsam. Although she is still a maiden, she has finished second on both starts and has perhaps been unlucky to bump into a pair of above average rivals in the form of Lewis Bere and Zorken. Her last run interests me most, she was second to a previous winner (Zorken) in what looks to be a strong Class 2 race at Paris Longchamp last week. Although she was no match for the winner, she was a clear second and the horses in behind her brought a relatively strong level of form into that race. She showed a decent turn of foot at times and actually ran the fastest individual furlong of any horse in the race (10.93s for the 2nd furlong), but she did tire in the closing stages, and she will need to find a way to conserve more of her energy, even over the minimum trip.
By contrast, Les Pavots looks a much stronger finisher. She bounced out well on debut at Chantilly to make the running and although she was joined and briefly outpaced at the 2-furlong pole, she battled well and eventually outstayed her rivals to win by 3-lengths. The time wasn’t exceptional, but she was able to maintain a high cruising speed for a long way and I have no doubt that she will be doing her best work in the final furlong. The question is whether she will cope with the drop to 5-furlongs. Against some speedier types, it is very possible that she will be outpaced, and it will be a difficult task for Mickael Barzalona to keep her close enough to her rivals to be able to take advantage of her strong finish. Daiquiberry looks the most likely to set the pace, but I don’t think this race will be run at a ridiculous gallop and if it does turn into a sprint, she may well be vulnerable.
Does Komat win?
The answer is probably. If I were to price this race, I would make her around 5/4 to do so. Whilst it can be hard to compare British and French form, I think she showed more than enough at Redcar to win a race at this level, especially in early May. It is a big ask for an inexperienced filly to travel so early in her career, but if she handles it then I think she should really have too much speed for her rivals here. The fact that she is a British horse in a French race means that she isn’t going to be missed in the markets, but we should get a decent guide to her ability, and it will add some substance to the form of some of the more precocious French 2-year-olds that have run so far. I can’t see myself having a bet as it can be very hard to get any value from a British runner in those UK markets, but there might be an angle into a forecast, with Komat finishing ahead of the staying on Les Pavots. Either way, this looks to be a clever piece of placement by Amo Racing and Ffrench Davis and if she does win, she will surely be Royal Ascot bound.